The Berkshire-based Aids Support Awareness Project (ASAP) send second-hand wedding dresses to Zambia in Africa, to help brides lay their hands on the most expensive outfit, most women ever wear. It’s often the subject of weeks of stress and excitement, but more often than not, once the guests have gone home and the honeymoon is over, most wedding dresses end up packed away in a box in a dusty attic. Now these treasured frocks are being put to good use in Zambia. Abi Parker, runs the Aids Support Awareness Project from her house in Windsor and is appealing for more wedding gowns to take to brides in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
The 46 year-cold’s idea is to rent out the dresses at a low cost, and use the profits to help fund her Aids awareness project, and training scheme which teaches former prostitutes new skills. So far, she’s helped 60 Zambian brides with their attire for the big day. "It's an African woman's dream to get married in a white wedding dress," said Ms Parker, who lived in Zimbabwe for 10 years. "It's a sign of stature, like a sort of keeping up with the Joneses thing and it's usually only the very, very wealthy African families who can afford it,” she told the BBC. "By doing this we are giving people, who could not usually afford it, the opportunity to get married in a white dress."
Zambia is one of the world’s poorest countries and millions of Zambians live below the World Bank poverty line of $1 a day. It is also one of the sub-Saharan African countries worst affected by the Aids pandemic. One in five Zambians is infected with HIV/Aids, according to a 2005 report by the United Nations. The link between HIV and poverty is well known, poverty promotes behaviour that leaves people vulnerable to HIV.
Sue Lovell, who runs a Cambridge bridal shop, has been collecting dresses for the scheme. "Everyone wants to feel like a princess whether you live in Zambia or Cambridgeshire,” she said. "It's just something that every bride needs and I think this is a perfect charity." She’s had dresses donated from all over the UK as well as Russia, Canada and Norway. ASAP hopes to start hiring them out in the next couple of weeks.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children